Rookie’s first time on legendary oval racetrack
On Sunday, May 24, 2015, the same date of the celebrated Monaco Grand Prix Formula 1, 26-year-old Monegasque driver Stefano Coletti was making his oval career debut at the 99th Indianapolis 500, the racing capital of the world. Rookie Coletti joined 32 other drivers to attempt to win the most coveted title in auto racing. With him was another rookie Gabby Chaves trying to accomplish the impossible feat on their very first attempt that only happened twice this century. Juan Pablo Montoya won in his rookie year in 2000, with Helio Castroneves becoming the second consecutive rookie to win the year after.
Stef (as his team calls him) was quoted saying: “I am very excited to be racing at the Indianapolis 500. It will be my first time on an oval, so will be a whole new experience but it looks like it will be really fun, so I’m excited to try it. I have always watched the race from Europe so I can’t wait to be a part of it. On TV it always looks like such a great event and has been something I have always wanted to be a part of and now I am here. I am really excited, it’s a dream come true and I can’t wait.”
In an interview with USA Today, Coletti was asked how did he adjust to IndyCar racing, and he was quoted saying: “Everything’s new. The car is a lot different to Europe. The cars are much bigger, much heavier, they have a bigger engine. It’s close to GP2, but at the same time it’s not. Honestly, I was surprised by the performance of the car. Because I was expecting a heavy car, because it’s so big and so heavy I thought it wouldn’t be as reactive as the European ones. But in the end, I was wrong. When I got into the car, I thought, (shoot), that thing is quick!”
Chain-reaction crash halted Coletti’s hope for an Indy 500 finish
Coletti, seating in the No.4 KCRT Chevrolet, had to get used to the high speeds and super tight racing lines of an IndyCar oval track, plus the allure and exhilaration that the Indianapolis 500 brings, enough to make you shiver. Put yourself inside his helmet, and imagine you are in a foreign country and sliding into the cockpit of a super machine going over 370 kph (230mph) in front of millions of fans. You have to be courageous, don’t you think?
Unfortunately, Coletti became victim of a chain-reaction crash, with 25 laps to go, when Jack Hawksworth spun and clipped Sebastian Saavedra. Luckily Coletti got away with no major injuries, but the incident halted his attempt to finish his first indy 500. This is only the beginning of his IndyCar career, and Coletti has a promising future in front of him.
In Coletti’s own words: “We had a pretty difficult start to the race. The No. 4 KVRT car had a lot of under steer in traffic but with each pit stop we were able to make changes and in the end the car started to feel good in the last stint. We were finally able to run in the tow and attempt some passes. With about 25 laps to go, I was coming into turn 4 and the two guys in front of me crashed and hit the wall and I was able to avoid the first one, but not the second. Its unfortunate because I think I could have had a top-15, but that’s the way it ended. I just wanted to finish my first Indy 500 and I didn’t so hopefully I can do better next year.”
Veteran Montoya drank the milk
It was 39-year-old Colombian Juan Pablo Montoya who claimed victory, earning 2.4 million US dollars in his second Indy 500 win. He crossed under the checkered flag just 0.1046 seconds in front of Team Penske teammate Will Power in a thrilling race. Montoya is very successful in his second career in IndyCar racing. “To be honest with you, I thought I’d retire about 35 at Formula One,“ Montoya said. “That’s when people in racing retire. That’s what I thought.” The Colombian won as a rookie and now again as a veteran so he really deserved to drink the milk, the drink of Indy champions!
The countdown has began for the next Indy 500 scheduled for Sunday, May 29, 2016.
“Indy car racing is much more aggressive”. Emerson Fittipaldi